It’s Thursday: we’re entering the downward slide toward the end of the week. We might be racing to finish something by knock-off time tomorrow, we might be putting off starting new, large tasks until next week, or we may be delaying calls to clients until Monday. Perhaps we’re already dreaming of the coming weekend.
Each week has a cycle, each freelancer approaches it in his or her own way, and we all need downtime. I’m usually most switched on on Mondays and Tuesdays, and things are usually pretty relaxed by Friday. But what about those weeks where we really have to face up to a new project at 4pm on Thursday afternoon, or take a brief at 3pm on Friday, because otherwise we’ll never make the deadline?
Often, we need to kick-start our frame of mind at times when it would much rather be winding down. But spreading your super-focused, ultra-productive times throughout the week, rather than jamming them into the first few days, can reduce fatigue and help you remain sharp for your clients no matter when they need you. Here are a few tricks I use to make every day as productive (almost!) as Monday.
Change the start time
As a full-time freelancer, I start work whenever I want, and towards the end of the week, that start time can creep later as I become more relaxed about my schedule. Getting up early, and enthusiastically, like I do on Monday — even when it’s Friday — can get me in a focused, sharp frame of mind from kick-off time.
Change the schedule
It’s the repetition in our weeks that gives our days rhythm, and, often, marks out the high tides and the low ebbs of energy. Changing the schedule — moving your yoga class to Monday instead of Wednesday, or practising French in the mornings, rather than after work — may not sound like it’ll have that much influence. But I find that the less predictability there is in my week, the more alert and active I feel — and the more I get done.
Add a hurdle
If, like me, you prefer to cram the week’s major hurdles — new client meetings, new project commencement, new task attempts — into what are usually the more productive days of the week, try spacing at least one hurdle to what’s usually a less-productive day for you. Sometimes this might be forced upon you anyway, but even if it’s not, facing up to a brand new challenge on Friday morning can be hugely motivating.
Set a day aside
For me, big, challenging tasks tend to be scheduled in the first three days of the week — I tend to spend the last couple of days largely juggling bits and pieces to keep everything on track. But if you can swing it, setting a day aside later in the week to focus solely on big, meaty tasks that you might otherwise leave until next week can help you regain productivity at the week’s lowest points.
Manage your contacts
I’ve noticed that some of my contacts start off the week quietly — as they’re focused on the work they need to get done — and grow much chattier as the days pass. Fridays can be a riot of email, IMs, calls, witty emails, and so on. Clients, too, can be in contact more as they race to finesse a piece of work with you before the weekend.
The increased chatter can be a major distraction if you need to get something done on Friday afternoon with the same verve and intensity you usually have on Monday morning. Shutting it out — perhaps only for the duration of the task at hand — might be the answer. You might need to go offline, let your calls go to voice mail, or ignore any but the most urgent client contacts, to make this possible.
These are the tricks I use to increase my productivity and efficiency at what are usually my week’s low points. What are your secrets?